One of the hardest-hit characteristics when a person is suffering from a substance use disorder is empathy. After relearning to care for one’s self, community outreach during recovery is a positive way to learn or relearn empathy for other people and to find something bigger than yourself to encourage and inspire you throughout your recovery.
Community Outreach During Recovery Helps You Focus on Someone and Something Else
When you are in recovery, well-meaning people might tell you just to focus on getting better. Somehow, they are overlooking the fact that healing, whether physical, emotional or psychological, works best when you can accept it for what it is and then let it sit in the back of your mind for a while.1 You’ve been thinking about getting better for a long time; that’s why you’ve made it to recovery. Now it’s time to focus on someone else and spend time giving back.
Community outreach during recovery is one of the best ways to do this. It offers a structured, reliable way to get out there and help others in simple ways. You don’t have to change the world, but it can feel good to make a difference in someone else’s day.
5 Tips for Community Outreach During Recovery
It might feel a little stressful to think about volunteering; after all, there are so many volunteer opportunities out there and you’re just one person! Use these five tips to find a community outreach opportunity that will aid in your healing.
- Pick something that sparks your interest. Volunteering at the SPCA, reading to children, beautifying a local park or even engaging with seniors at a nursing home—do something that brings meaning to your life.
- Be realistic about what you’ll be doing. Even the most meaningful community outreach program during your recovery will have some tedious tasks involved. Approach these tasks with a positive attitude and you’ll appreciate the more rewarding aspects even more.
- Give it a test run. Before you commit to a long-term volunteer position anywhere, give it a few trials during which you can scope out the staff and other volunteers, the location where you’ll be spending most of your time and the job in general. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, find another organization to work with.
- Stay consistent. Community outreach during recovery can become addictive, in a way, if you find that you crave the emotional high of giving back to your community.2 Keep your volunteering at a healthy level by committing to a certain number of hours each week or month, and don’t beat yourself up about it if you have to miss every now and then.
- Know when to quit. If the work you are doing is too emotionally stressful, as can easily be the case when you work directly with children or neglected animals, it may be best for you to find another outlet for your volunteerism. Choose something that doesn’t put you in direct contact with the people you are helping, such as building homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Helping Others Helps You, Too
As you relearn how to think about and empathize with other people, community outreach during recovery can give you a safe and stable place to practice these emotional skills. And the more you practice your empathy, the more you will grow into the person you want to be.